How Well Do You Know the Dogs of Harry Potter?

In honor of Rowling’s latest release and National Dog Day this Friday, let’s see how many dogs of the Wizarding World you can name….

A pair of adorable pups probably come to mind right away: Fang and Fluffy.

Fang is described as a BoaTitles for HP dog blogpostrhound, but that is actually another name for a Great Dane, so yes indeedy, Fang is an enormous, black, Great Dane. I imagine him like the tallest Great Dane in the world, George, who was 7’3” long from his rubbery nose to the end of his ouch-my-face-is-not-a-windshield tail. Sadly, George passed away in 2013, but he will forever live on in the scratches he left at the top of his family’s refrigerator. It doesn’t seem fair, but large dogs do not live as long as smaller ones. I hate to think how many raw steaks Hagrid will need to hold over his swollen eyes when Fang must leave him.

Titles for HP dog blogpostFluffy is the large, vicious, three-headed dog that guards the Philosopher’s Stone and can only be tamed through music. I love the idea of a three-headed dog. You get three times the adorable, loving stares and only one part of the . . . you know. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid explains that he got Fluffy from “a Greek chappie.” Rowling is showing off her impressive knowledge of ancient myths and legends with this off-hand remark, as Greek mythology is replete with three–headed canines, also known as hellhounds. The most famous of the pack, Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the Underworld.Herakles_Kerberos_Louvre_F204

This 2,500 year old Greek amphora shows  Hercules taming a two-headed Cerberus. I’m not sure what happened to head #3, but I guess you can afford to lose your head when you’ve got a couple of spares.

 

Titles for HP dog blogpost

Remember him? Maybe not, because despite his impressive name, he is a decidedly non-magical creature. Ripper is the favorite of Harry’s Aunt Marge’s twelve bulldogs. He once chased Harry into a tree, which wasn’t very nice, but he also sunk his teeth into Vernon’s leg, so there’s that.

 

Titles for HP dog blogpostWhat? You didn’t think of Crups? That’s okay, they only get one quick mention in The Order of the Phoenix, as creatFlying Jack Russellures studied in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class. Crups are wizard-bred dogs that look like Jack Russell terriers, except that they have forked tails. This Jack Russell may or may not have a forked tail, but he sure looks magical.   Accio Crup!!

 

Titles for HP dog blogpostThat’s right, Ron’s patronus, his alter-self, is a dog—a loyal if not altogether bright creature, AND a Jack Russell. The choice of a Jack Russell for Ron was a sentimental one, because Rowling once had one for a pet. I would have picked an Irish Setter, but that was probably too obvious. So obvious, in fact, that my patronus is probably a dog . . .

Titles for HP dog blogpostThe Grim is the omen of death in the form of aGrim image giant, shaggy black dog. Harry doesn’t actually see the Grim, but no spoilers.  Several dogs could be the source of Rowling’s Grim, including the Black Shuck of English folklore and the Cu Sith of Scottish mythology, both of which signal imminent death. There’s also the Church Grim of Scandinavian and English folklore, a guardian spirit that guards churchyards after being buried alive there for that purpose. Shudder. This description of the appearance of the Black Shuck at a church in Suffolk, England in 1577 begins with, ” A Straunge and Terrible Wunder wrought very late…” Gotta say though, looks more like a friendly sheep to me.

 

 

Finally, there is mention of two dogs owned by Hermione’s parents after she modified their memories and sent them to live in nice, safe Australia (and I’m going to pretend they were dingos), and Hagrid compares baby Aragog to a Pekingese in size. How sweet. Additional dog mentions occur in the Harry Potter films, video games, companion books, and on Pottermore. Learn about them here: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Dogs

 

It’s no surprise that dogs sniff their way into Rowling’s books. If humans cannot live Dinky tailwithout the furry, tail wagging wonderfulness that is dogs, why would wizards want to do so? Only problem is, Dinky, the Great Dane at the center of my literary world, can’t stop drooling over the fact that Fang is a fellow Dane. Talk about a Fang Fandog! Down, Dinky, down!  I will get you a Fang poster for your doghouse, but in the meantime, my face is not a windshield!

Ouch!

Lessons learned from my flat iron — No time like the present

cartoon-hair-on-fireI have thin hair. The kind that requires a short funeral service every morning as I mourn over the strands that have fallen out from brushing. When flat irons became all the rage, I made sure to buy the most expensive brand that promised not to damage my precious locks. I dumped a good $150 into it, so I was annoyed a few months back when I noticed the flat iron’s charging light never stopped blinking.

I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and so I kept using it . . . until a week later when I took a good hard look at my hair in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair so frizzy?”

It was burned. Irrevocable hair damage. My hairdresser said it resembled cotton candy. (Ouch, that hurt!) She cut off a lot, trying to “lessen” the damage. In the meantime I learned an important lesson.

It’s much better to take some time now to fix something rather than to continue along, assuming all will be well.

boy writingIf you know a tween who struggles with writing, the time to help him or her through this issue is NOW, especially as school begins anew. The following are five suggestions taken from the National Council Teachers of English website to encourage writing in children. (Link to the full article.)

  1. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good “talking.”
  2. Talk through their ideas with your tween. Help them discover what they want to say.
  3. Make sure your tween has a “place” of her/his own to write. Any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  4. Share letters and emails from friends and relatives. (You may need to urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Grandparents can be very helpful here. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.
  5. Think of unique ways a child can be involved in writing. For example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, etc. Each attempt at writing, no matter how small, is important and builds confidence.

Above view of a girl geek . She is using her laptop and looking at the camera.  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786682][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/children5.jpg[/img][/url]

Scary Stories for Summer Reading!

I’ve enjoyed some great reads the past couple months I wanted to recommend to you. Maybe you’ll discover a new read!

Children of the After: Awakening

A post-apocalyptic thriller starring a teenage boy, pre-teen girl, and their little brother.
See it on Amazon

Woven

Surprise! It’s a ghost story adventure!
See it on Amazon

stepsister

This time there’s a haunting–and it’s not a friendly ghost. Based in the Muslim faith.
See it on Amazon

I just realized there’s been a slightly darker theme to my reading lately. Huh. Well, maybe you enjoy stories that take you to the edge of fear, too!

Have you read these books? What great books have you read lately?

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Alex 1 (2)Alex Banks likes to say she holds a black belt in awesome since the only kind of kicking-butt she does is on paper. She lives in Utah with her kickin’ husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, one samurai dog and four zen turtles.

Alex writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction (suitable for readers over fourteen) under the name Ali Cross.
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Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

book-Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net(image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

WRITERS: GET & STAY INSPIRED!

Writers write, obviously, and most of the time we do it with passion, excitement, and a love for our craft. But there are times when we need a little extra inspiration . . .

Useful ways writers can accomplish this:

JOURNALING. Journaling our thoughts and feelings is a great way to cleanse the mind and give our ideas a clearer “space” to flow. Aside from personal topics, we can journal specifically about our writing, what we’re struggling with in our manuscripts, what we’re researching, ideas we have but aren’t sure about, any fears we have about our writing (maybe we’re questioning the topics we’ve chosen or our craft skills), certain obstacles we believe might be slowing our progress, things in our lives or writing careers we’d like to see changed, and on and on . . . Journaling is a great method to clear our heads, ease our hearts, and allow for new paths of clarity to show up, so that our focus becomes fine-tuned once again.

ENGAGE IN OTHER TYPES OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Drawing, painting, sculpting, scrap-booking—really anything that engages our creativity in a visual way—helps awaken our muses. Some may want to create art inspired by something they are writing about specifically, such as a character or setting. Some may want total freedom to create whatever comes to mind. Either way is fine, as is any style of artistic expression. Even doodling works wonders to keep our fingers moving while our minds are allowed to relax and find new inspiration.

TALK IT OUT. Bantering, brainstorming, talking out our story ideas in a free-style way with a writing buddy or two can lead us to solutions we might not otherwise have found. The trick is not to get too serious (at first), letting anything/everything flow freely, so that we can eventually arrive at the real “heart” of our projects with a new/deeper outlook. As an alternative to working with a buddy, writers can also go solo by using voice recorders (voice recorder apps work great) to talk things out on their own until those golden ideas click into place. I do this while taking a walk or driving (nowadays nobody ever thinks you’re talking to yourself).

WATCH A MOVIE. Structure-wise, movies and books share many of the same rules. For extra insight, watch a movie in the same genre in which you write. Pay attention to when and how the story-structure points occur (inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, climax, etc.), observe the settings shown, the focus of the camera on particular objects, listen carefully to dialogue between characters for uniqueness or interesting styles of banter. Writers can learn a lot from cinematic art, and it’s definitely a fun way to get inspired.

READ. Perhaps the most effective way to re-charge ourselves as writers is to read. Read books in the genres you love—the ones that get you excited—no matter if they match the genres you write in or not. The point is to inspire and re-ignite your passion for the written word. Reading helps us stay in the world of “story” while also helping us to relax. It allows us writers to stop focusing so hard on our own manuscripts, and at the same time, fills us with motivation that we can take back to our writing. Whenever anyone asks me what one thing I would suggest for writer’s block, my answer is always: READ!

Want more tips? Check out my board over on Pinterest with tons of articles, quotes, pictures, etc. to help Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

 

head shot image extra crop colorChristina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She is also a once-upon-a-time CPA and the author of Bean Counting for Authors. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

 

Are Writers Introverts?

Alone for hours at a time and often oblivious to the outside world, authors are solitary souls working with pen or computer in a quiet room, an isolated bungalow, or even an attic loft.

When you see images of the lonely writer perpetuated in photos, television, and movies, do you ever wonder if authors write because they want to be alone?

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If you ask them, they often say they feel perfectly fine creating stories in the isolation of their own minds. Why are they comfortable working alone when many people need others around to get anything accomplished?

So, are writers introverts? Do introverts choose to become writers so they can work by themselves? Or is this all a myth?

What are You?

Here is a quick test. Which of these statements best describes you?

  • I work better in an environment with people around me. I am outgoing and get energy from others. (Extrovert/Extravert)
  • I work better in peace and quiet. I need to be alone to get anything done. (Introvert)
  • It all depends on the situation. (Ambivert)

What is Your Answer?

Now that you have decided what you are, do you really think it’s that simple? Of course it isn’t, and recent studies and science explain why.

According to most research, no one is purely extrovert, or introvert, or ambivert. We are all a bit of each. However, everyone has one tendency that is predominant in his or her personality. And, as it turns out, that single component does affect us, our activities, and our creativity. Once we understand this about ourselves and about people in general, we should also be able to portray our characters more accurately.

Myths About Introverts

A cultural bias against introverts has existed for a long time. Even today, they are perceived as more reserved, quiet, shy or insecure, afraid of social situations, and highly intelligent—even nerdy,—and of course, they like to work alone.

The Truth About Introverts

As far back as the 1960’s it was assumed in many sources that introverts were a minority, perhaps only 10-20% of American population. However, according to a random sample study done in 1998, people who are predominantly introverts make up about 51% of the American population while 49% are primarily extroverts. Recent reports suggest that the number of introverts may still be increasing.

Introverts are not necessarily shy, as both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Mistaking introversion for shyness or social awkwardness is a common error made by people outside of psychology circles. Shy people avoid social situations primarily out of fear of negative judgment, whereas introverts just prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

The Science of Introversion

So what causes someone to be an introvert if they aren’t shy? The answer is the dopamine reward system in our brain. The difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how their brains are wired and how the person gets rewarded and recharged.

There is more gray matter and more blood flow to the frontal lobe of the introvert’s brain, the area involved in abstract thinking, decision-making, and problem solving.

Introverts are re-energized by their internal mental lives and by their solitary quiet time. Social situations consume their energy. After any social activity, introverts need alone-time to recoup.

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The first clue to children who are introverts is that they often love to read. Early on, they discover that reading is a socially acceptable way to get their much-needed solitary, recharging time. Parents and teachers should not force them to constantly be involved in social activities, but allow them time where they have the opportunity to think, dream, and digest what they have learned, or just recharge. They don’t give quick answers because they need time to think about the question first.

On the other hand, the extrovert’s brain has more blood flow to temporal lobes, the posterior thalamus and the anterior cingulate gyrus. Those parts of the brain are involved with actions, emotions, social attention, risk-taking, and the senses. An extrovert is re-energized by being around exciting people and by stimulating activities and environments. They often act and make decisions easily and quickly. Quiet time zaps their energy and they need stimulation to recharge.

Then, there is the third category, not often included in studies or statistics—ambiverts. By definition, ambiverts move easily across the spectrum of possible situations. They have a tendency to be comfortable in social groups, but also, equally comfortable working alone, and seem to recharge either way.

To sum it up, the difference between individuals is based on the environments they thrive in. Extroverts get their energy from the outside world and introverts gain theirs from within.

So, if you want to be a writer and actively pursue the writer’s life, knowing whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert is important.

Is There a Correlation Between Creativity and Introversion?

Studies on creativity show that anywhere from 10 to 25% of the general population is considered creative or engaged in creative pursuits. Both introverts and extroverts can be creative. Some studies break it down more, suggesting 60% or more of introverts are involved in creative pursuits, while only 20% of extroverts are. ‘Happiness’ seems to increase creativity for both groups.

Charles Dickens at Writing Desk -PublicDomainPictures.net

Charles Dickens at Writing Desk
PublicDomainPictures.net

Creative people need time alone to work on their projects, whatever they might be—writing a novel or poem, painting a picture, or doing scientific research. This seems to be right in the introvert’s wheelhouse.

How Does Being an Introvert Affect the Writing Life?

While the basic challenges facing all authors are similar, how introvert writers handle them is unique to them.

 When writing, introverts enjoy research, gathering and analyzing information, and get satisfaction from their efforts. Because they store the information in their long-term memories, it takes longer for introverts to access the information when they need it. They need to think about things before they can write.

If you’re both an introvert and a writer, you’re lucky for a number of reasons:

  • You can focus and think deeply about any subject you choose.
  • Thinking about your project recharges you.
  • You like research and its challenges.
  • You are content when you need to work alone.
  • You can concentrate for long periods of time.
  • You are self-motivated and persistent.

So, an introvert writer can spend long hours alone writing. Walking and thinking is a perfect exercise for introverted writers. In fact, after a party or social outing, returning home to read or write will recharge them.

But, there are disadvantages:

  • You don’t like to be pushed or rushed.
  • You hate deadlines.
  • You procrastinate because you never think you have all the information you need.
  • You never believe that your current draft is the final one.
  • You are not easily motivated to market your work.
  • And, finally, by spending too much time alone, you can lose contact with the outside world.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, once you know your personality type and understand how to best recharge yourself, you can become a more productive writer.

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Do you have any thoughts about introverts and the writers’ life?

img_3925_2Kathryn Sant is a retired obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she is a co-author of the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series. Curse at Zala Manor is Book 1, Secret of Haunted Bog is Book 2, and Legend of Monster Island is Book 3. She is currently working on two middle-grade boys’ adventure novels and the next Monster Moon book.

Her interest in adventure, research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, exotic adventures, and museums of all kinds. But she also enjoys quiet evenings reading with her dogs at her side.

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